When I was a prospective student I went from website to website and toured many colleges. When I took my tour of the NIU College of Business I saw the campus, I saw Barsema Hall, and I spoke with faculty but the thing that stood out most to me was undoubtedly the Experiential Learning Center. As defined by the college, the Experiential Learning Center connects teams of NIU students with organizations to tackle real-world business issues. From software evaluation to emerging market analysis projects, students serve as consultants addressing non-mission critical, cross functional business issues. The program is also competitive entry, which was highly attractive to me as well. When they say they only take the best of the best students from the undergraduate and graduate level, that is a program that I definitely want to involved with.
Each project lasts 16 weeks and spans across an entire semester. Students are given the chance to apply for projects of their choice and they may apply for as many projects as they are interested in, there is no limit! Once they’ve submitted their applications, the faculty coaches will select who they want to interview for their respective projects. If all goes well and the student is a fit for the project, they will be invited to join an Experiential Learning Center Team.
I applied for every single project in the fall of 2011. I was so anxious and wanted nothing more than the opportunity to get involved. I interviewed with 5 of the 8 project leaders and thankfully, after a few days of nail biting, I was selected to join a project for spring 2012.
I got so much out of my experience. Over the 16 week period I earned real world experience. I felt as though I was an employee of my client company and I communicated on almost a daily basis with executives at said company which was the 15th largest private U.S. company at the time. Every week I would manage conference calls with my client by making agendas, working through action items and project planning schedules. I created a professional survey from scratch with the assistance of faculty advisors and marketed the survey to earn intelligible data for our final recommendations. I learned how to be a leader since we were asked to lead student meetings in a rotation. With over 15 hours of work going into the project each week, I was forced to manage my time and learn how to delegate and prioritize to meet deadlines. At the close of our project, we compiled a final report which led to the eventual acceptance and implementation of our 7 step recommendation. I learned how to control and leverage time in a meeting, and I learned more about business communications than I did in some classes! I honed my presentation skills and built confidence after presenting to countless VP’s, Presidents, and other C-level executives at our final client meeting.
Nick LoVetere, our previous student blogger wrote the following in one of his final posts from the spring 2012 semester.
“If I had even just one more year in college there are some things I would do that I wasn’t able. I was recruited to be part of the Experiential Learning Center but due to scheduling and the academic path I chose, far too many people said it was too much work to handle (and I’m the kind of person who takes on everything, so it says a lot when you’re told more than once not to do it). One more year, and I would be the first to apply and tell every faculty coach why I should be on their consulting project.”
Don’t miss this opportunity! The deadline to apply is only days away! You may browse projects at http://www.cob.niu.edu/elc/projects.asp and once you’re ready to dive in and take the plunge visit https://applyelc.niu.edu/login/?next=/menu/ to apply.